Chris Hedges seeks to challenge legality of NDAA in court

As it’s late, and as I’m exhausted, there’s not going to be a lot in the way of thoughtful analysis, but I wanted to let you all know that one of our favorite people, Chris Hedges, has filed suit against the Obama administration on the grounds that the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act is unconstitutional. Here, with more, is a clip from Hedges:

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Section 1031 of the bill defines a “covered person”—one subject to detention—as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces”…

The supine and gutless Democratic Party, which would have feigned outrage if George W. Bush had put this into law, appears willing, once again, to grant Obama a pass. But I won’t. What he has done is unforgivable, unconstitutional and exceedingly dangerous. The threat and reach of al-Qaida—which I spent a year covering for The New York Times in Europe and the Middle East—are marginal, despite the attacks of 9/11. The terrorist group poses no existential threat to the nation. It has been so disrupted and broken that it can barely function. Osama bin Laden was gunned down by commandos and his body dumped into the sea. Even the Pentagon says the organization is crippled. So why, a decade after the start of the so-called war on terror, do these draconian measures need to be implemented? Why do U.S. citizens now need to be specifically singled out for military detention and denial of due process when under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force the president can apparently find the legal cover to serve as judge, jury and executioner to assassinate U.S. citizens, as he did in the killing of the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen? Why is this bill necessary when the government routinely ignores our Fifth Amendment rights—“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”—as well as our First Amendment right of free speech? How much more power do they need to fight “terrorism”?

Fear is the psychological weapon of choice for totalitarian systems of power. Make the people afraid. Get them to surrender their rights in the name of national security. And then finish off the few who aren’t afraid enough. If this law is not revoked we will be no different from any sordid military dictatorship. Its implementation will be a huge leap forward for the corporate oligarchs who plan to continue to plunder the nation and use state and military security to cow the population into submission.

The oddest part of this legislation is that the FBI, the CIA, the director of national intelligence, the Pentagon and the attorney general didn’t support it. FBI Director Robert Mueller said he feared the bill would actually impede the bureau’s ability to investigate terrorism because it would be harder to win cooperation from suspects held by the military. “The possibility looms that we will lose opportunities to obtain cooperation from the persons in the past that we’ve been fairly successful in gaining,” he told Congress.

But it passed anyway. And I suspect it passed because the corporations, seeing the unrest in the streets, knowing that things are about to get much worse, worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, do not trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the Army. And now they can…

Fortunately for the powers that be, people are about one thousand times more interested in the fact that it’s Betty White’s birthday.

[note: The text of Hedges’ legal complaint, for those of you who are interested, can be found here.]

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  1. Edward
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “The supine and gutless Democratic Party, which would have feigned outrage if George W. Bush had put this into law, appears willing, once again, to grant Obama a pass.”


  2. Demetrius
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink


    Have you considered participating in tomorrow’s planned Internet “blackout,” to protest this legislation?

  3. Mr. X
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    It would appear that the good guys won on SOPA, Demetrius. The following comes from the Guardian:

    Congressional leaders are preparing to shelve controversial legislation aimed at tackling online piracy after president Barack Obama said he would not support it.

    California congressman Darrell Issa, an opponent of Sopa, the Stop Online Piracy Act, said he had been told by House majority leader Eric Cantor that there would be no vote unless there is consensus on the bill.

    “The voice of the internet community has been heard. Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal,” said Issa.

    The news is a major blow for Sopa’s backers in Hollywood, who had enjoyed broad support in Congress. But the Motion Pictures Association of America, one of the bill’s biggest sponsors, said it would continue to press for new laws. “The failure to pass meaningful legislation will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America,” the MPAA said in a blogpost.

    The tech community has fought hard to stop Sopa and a rival bill, Protect IP, also known as the Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation Act, or the e-Parasite act. Websites including Reddit and Wikipedia are planning to “go dark” on Wednesday in protest against the legislation. Issa said he remained concerned about Protect IP, which will go before the Senate on 24 January.

    The PIPA legislation, to my knowledge, is still alive, however.

    More from the Guardia:

  4. Eel
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I hate to give credence to your belief that people care more about Betty White than they do about indefinite detention at the hands of the military, but did you see the 1940s nude shot of White that’s been making the rounds? It’s adorable.

  5. Elf
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Eel. I’ll have to pin that photo of Betty up over my bunk in Gitmo.

  6. anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    More people are interested in the campaign to save the Twinkie than to overturn this legislation. That’s the sad reality of living in the United States in 2012. Maybe if Chris Hedges would appear on Dancing with the Stars, things would be different.

  7. alan2102
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Anon: The Twinkie is a vital American icon, and its demise would be a grave blow to the spiritual moorings of our society. Whereas the Constitution is just a goddamn piece of paper. Get your priorities straight.

  8. Mr. X
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    We need to make Twinkies mandatory in schools, like the Pledge of Allegiance.

    What’s more, we should encourage Paula Deen to incorporate them into more of her recipes. As we all know, she’s an American treasure, and her endorsement would be an incredible boon to this great, golden symbol of all that is right with America.

  9. Mr. X
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    For those of you who didn’t put two and two together, I was referencing another thread on this site when I mentioned Paula Deen.

  10. K2
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous, the #1 trending topic on Yahoo is “Snooki without make-up.”

  11. Damon
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    I say these power hungry public servants are bowing down to their coporate controllers. The reps in DC are scared, the banking elite are scared. The people have the power, damned the Constitution! Now is the last chance to make some reversals, or we shall be forever doomed in the military controlled USSA secret police.

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